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Cataract Treatment: Removing the Cloudy Lens

A cataract is a clouding of the lens in your eye. Surgery can be done to remove the cataract and replace the lens. This can improve how well you see. The most common methods to remove a cataract are phacoemulsification and extracapsular extraction.



A small incision is made in the cornea or sclera. Then a hole is made in the anterior capsule. An ultrasound probe is inserted into the lens. Sound vibrations from the probe break the cloudy lens into tiny pieces. The pieces are then suctioned out. No stitches are needed after the procedure.

Extracapsular Extraction


This method requires a larger incision in the cornea. The entire lens can then be removed at once through the incision. Stitches are used to close the incision after the procedure.

Implanting an IOL

After the cloudy lens is removed, it can be replaced with a plastic lens called an IOL (intraocular lens). Your doctor can tell you more about this part of the surgery.

Publication Source: Cunningham ET, Lietman TM, Whitcher JP. Blindness: a global priority for the twenty-first century. Bulletin of the World Health Organization. March 2001;79(3):180.
Publication Source: Friedrich MJ. Insight into opacity: clues to cataract formation. The Journal of the American Medical Association. October 10, 2001;286(14):1705.
Publication Source: Gritz DC. Can cataracts be prevented? Bulletin of the World Health Organization. March 2001;79(3):260.
Publication Source: Hutchisson B, Nicoladis CB. Topical anesthesia: a new approach to cataract surgery. AORN Journal. September 2001;74(3):339.
Publication Source: Trobe JD. The physician's guide to eye care. 2nd ed. San Francisco, CA: Foundation of the American Academy of Ophthalmology; 2001.
Online Source: National Eye Institute <a href="" target="_blank"></a>
Online Medical Reviewer: Uhler, Tara, MD
Date Last Reviewed: 3/22/2012
Date Last Modified: 11/1/2011
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